The heart of the Gospel message of salvation is the fact that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and arose from the tomb in three days. This weekend Christians are celebrating this glorious event world wide. Had it never taken place, Christianity would be just another religion.
But while Christians recognize that Jesus Christ is the One who died and arose, many also say in the same breath that God was the One who died and arose from death. In fact, many believe that Jesus had to be God manifest in the flesh or else his death would have only been a martyrdom, not a sacrifice for the sin of humanity. They also equate his being divine as being God or else he was merely a human being, and not God. And yet, he’s also the Son of God.
I propose that this line of thinking brings confusion as to the nature of Jesus and God. Did Jesus and God both die on the cross and rise from the dead? If so, who was Jesus talking to on the cross when he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)? Was he talking to himself?
Moreover, the Bible clearly states that God is immortal and eternal (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Romans 1:23). He cannot die. But whenever Christians this time of year observe Holy Week, we always hear preachers say that God died. Does this make any sense?
God also said he cannot change (Psalm 102:26-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). If God could change, then would he not cease to be immortal and eternal if he suffered, bled, and died? Yet Jesus, the divine Son, did. The Apostle Peter clearly states that Christ Jesus is the one who suffered and died (1 Peter. 2:21-25) not God.
According to the scriptures, Jesus is indeed divine since he is “of God.” (Cp. Matthew 16:16.) He is called God’s only begotten Son: John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” (Also, John 3:16). Having said that Jesus is divine, however, it must be understood that to be the Son of God does not make him “God the Son” as many mistakenly assume. In fact, there is nowhere in the Bible that Jesus is ever referred to as “God the Son,” even though you will read these words in certain creeds and statements of belief.
Once we accept the fact it was Jesus Christ the divine Son of God, not God himself who died and rose triumphantly from the tomb, then all confusion concerning their identity is cleared. It also helps us understand what Paul meant when he said, “God was manifest in the flesh,” in First Timothy 3:16.
There are those who misinterpret these words to mean “God came in the flesh.” But “manifest” simply means “to reveal.” And, according to the Biblios Interlinear Bible, the verse says, “And confessedly great is the mystery of godliness which was revealed in the flesh…” “Mystery,” in this sense of the word, means something that was initially hidden but is now revealed in the Gospels. In essence, the secret is out: Jesus is God’s revelation of godliness in the flesh.
This is the Good News that brings us encouragement, strength, and hope in a world that offers us despair, weakness, and hopelessness. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church of God to reinforce their hope found through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, New King James Version, NKJV).
It would seem to me that if God would have died and arose from the tomb the apostle would have said so in his discussion of the resurrection hope. Rather, we see that it was Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who died for our sins, was buried rose again the third day “according to the scriptures.” Without this Good News, our faith is in vain as Paul says and we are to be most pitied (vss. 16-19). Worse yet, we are still in our sins and without the hope of receiving eternal life when Jesus returns from heaven.
But the Good News is that Jesus DID do these things when God raised him from the dead. The Apostle Peter proclaimed, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10, NKJV). (See also Acts 13:29-30.) So, how could God raise his own Son from the dead if he was dead himself?
The Good News that God did not die but Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is the one who really died, and was raised by God his Father presents a clear and indisputable truth that brings us hope and fortifies our faith. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:57-58, NKJV).
Have a Blessed Resurrection [Easter] Sunday and Good News to you!